Tonight, we are going to a banquet: it's the one-year anniversary of the Microsoft Research Asia ATC (Advanced Technology Center, one of the organizations that Holly is here working for). It should be interesting. Besides the standard speeches and food, there will also be--apparently--both a talent show and a fashion show. Or maybe just one of those, I'm not quite sure. (Needless to say, I'll let you know.) Either way, I know at some point there was talk of Holly putting on a wedding dress and me putting on my suit and the both of us parading down some sort of walk, cat- or otherwise. You will, gentle readers, not be surprised to learn that this is not happening, although I am, in fact, wearing my suit. Holly however has opted for a standard black dress, which should attract a little less attention when we swing by the Grand Hyatt post-banquet to meet some people for drinks. I mean, we get stared at enough already--giving people yet another reason to look at us like we come from a different planet is really just not necessary.
But--surprise!--I digress. I am actually a little nervous about the banquet. Why? One reason: baijio (bye-gee-oh). Baijio is a grain liquor that is very popular here in China, and the taste … well, the taste leaves something to be desired. If you've had sake, imagine that taste, but with two caveats: one, the sake is spoiled; and two, it has the gag-inducing properties of a bottle of bottom-shelf tequila. If you haven't had sake, you can just go into your medicine cabinet and take a nice, big swig of rubbing alcohol. Baijio tastes, I would imagine, approximately like that, only not as good.
Plus, just to make things better, it's really strong stuff: "How did I get back home last night?" strong, in fact. And, naturally, it's not a sipping liquor--they drink it in shot form. (This, I would guess, is strongly related to the blackout factor.) Basically, they pour it into shot glasses, give a toast, yell ganbei! (gone-bay)--which translates, roughly, to "bottom's up!"--and then everyone slams it down. Yes, it's a group activity: when one person toasts, everyone drinks. And since good form requires that you eventually toast the person who toasted you, the process is repeated over and over and over and over. Get nine or ten people around a table, and you can see how this would end badly for everyone.
Luckily, the banquet is on a Thursday night, so everyone involved will have to work the next day, which should--I hope--keep the ganbeis to a minimum. Plus, I happen to know that some of the higher-ups here (that is, the smart ones) prefer, in general, to not get pulled into endless cycles of ganbei-ing, so that also bodes well for how I will feel tomorrow morning.
Anyway, we'll see. While I don't think tonight will be too bad, I think the party for Chinese New Year--the Chinese equivalent to Christmas--could get ugly. (Everyone has an entire week off.) Either way, I'm sure that at some point I will get into a ganbei battle with someone. I'll be sure to tell you all about it when it happens. Well, I'll be sure to tell you that it happened, at least. Odds are I won't actually remember the details.